Posted by: smstrouse | September 6, 2014

The Intra-faith Question

Maybe it just doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe I’m a dinosaur pastor preaching to a dying institution. But I can’t help myself. I got this bee in my bonnet 15 years ago about the church’s need to do intrafaith work. (Yes, that’s right spellcheck. Do not automatically change it to interfaith.)interspiritual-image

So I got my doctorate in the subject and now am writing the book. The working title is The Intra-faith Question: What Does It Mean to Be a Christian in an Inter-faith World? It’s intended to be a guide for pastors and congregations to face the theological challenges of encountering people of other faiths.

Unknown-1But there have been some big changes since I began this quest. First of all, the institutional church is too anxious about declining membership to notice the huge population that just doesn’t care about a lot of the stuff we talk (and fight) about. Yeah, we get that there are these people we call “spiritual but not religious.” But do we understand that they’re not some monolithic, easily categorized group? Nor are those who we’ve dubbed the “Nones”?

imagesThere are the never-churched and the members of the “church alumni society,” those who’ve left the institution for one reason or another. There are the millennials, that oft-targeted demographic of church growth pundits. There is the growing interspirituality movement, gleaning wisdom from all traditions. And there are the hyphenateds, Taoist-Lutherans, Buddhist-Methodists, Pagan-Catholics, etc. Do we have any idea what to say to these folks?

And I’ll tell you, these folks do want to talk. I find myself getting into deeper spiritual conversations with many of these folks than with church members. Just this past week, my massage therapist wanted to talk about my book. I had mentioned it the week before because he asked me what I did on my staycation. This week he brought it up again and obviously wanted to have some serious conversation about it. It was quite wonderful, really. But he doesn’t need my book. His questions are not about being a Christian in an interfaith world. He also would probably not fit into even a progressive congregation like mine.

I feel like I’m straddling two spiritual/religious (who knows what to call it anymore?) worlds: the one that is dying and the one coming into being. Maybe my generation should be called the Straddlers. Or the Bridge Generation.

Actually that helps. Instead of “aging baby boomer,” I can be “bridge builder.” My book can still have relevance to those who want to be bridges too. And it seems to even be a conversation-starter with the “spiritually independent” as well. The best of both worlds, really.

Bay_Bridge_reflections_at_nightI guess this dinosaur isn’t extinct just yet.

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